Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fingerless Picker

Ray Pack is an amazing person. He lost his fingers when he was 11-months old from an accident that burned his hands so bad his hands are just nubs. But that never stopped him from doing anything, including learning how to play guitar. The 69-year-old Pack, who is self-taught has been playing the guitar since he was 10. He has a style all his own but it seems to work. He has played with a number of famous classic country musicians and has even played at the Grand Ole Opry.
It was really cool to sit down and talk with him while I was shooting his portrait. The man was just full of really great stories about his past and even played a couple of songs. Some of the stories about him touring were really humorous, especially hearing about playing a gig in a mining town in Arizona on a stage that had chicken wire up to prevent flying beer bottles from hitting the band... reminded of a scene from the Blues Brothers movie.
It had been a while since I'd shot a portrait of anyone, and even longer since I shot someone other than an athlete (not that I'm complaining). So shooting Ray's photo was kind of fun. He was real easy to work with. At first I wasn't sure how he was going to be about me shooting a detail shot of just his hands, I didn't want to make him look like a freak, but I felt it was important to show what he had to work with. I started shooting the full shots and showed him a couple when he asked if I could see his hands well enough for the photo. When I told him I wanted to do the detail shot he was really open to it. I only needed about 5 frames to get the shot I was looking for (top). Here's a link to the story we wrote about him for the paper: A style all his own

Playoffs Week 2, Day 2, Game 3

The nightcap of my three game trip to Midland was Cooper playing El Paso Del Valle. Last year Cooper beat the snot out of Del Valle and this year was supposed to be the same and I was going to see yet another one of those blowout games that would be over at halftime. Well, that's not quite what happened. Cooper came out about as flat as they could an Del Valle was on fire. By the end of the first quarter Del Valle was winning 24-0. I guess the good thing about getting down this early like this is you have three quarters to make it up, and that is just what they did. It certainly made the game a lot more enjoyable.
By the end of the second quarter Cooper had made up the deficit and tied up the score. Del Valle came back and took the ball down the field to open the third quarter and kicked a 50-yard field goal. After that Cooper took over. They scored a touchdown on the next drive and never went down again. It made the game a lot more fun to watch than the 2 blowouts I had witnessed in the two previous games.







Thursday, November 26, 2009

Playoffs Week 2, Day 3, Game 3

Saturday's games were pretty nice, both Abilene High and Cooper were playing their playoff games against a pair of El Paso schools and, I guess, in an effort to get more fans (both teams usually travel pretty well anyway) to support both teams they played a double-header in the same place. No matter what the reason it sure made things nice for me since I never had to leave the stadium
Grande Communications Stadium in Midland is about 7 years old, and in my opinion, is the nicest high school football stadium in the country. The people that run the stadium are very friendly and allow you to stay as late as you need to, to finish writing your story/filing your photos, the light is GREAT (it was great before I got my D3, now I can use a teleconverter if needed), not to mention seating for 15,000 a nice press box and lots of parking. My only complaint is it has the WORLD'S SLOWEST elevator ever made, which means when I'm on deadline my fat ass has to climb the stairs to the press box, since if I wait for the elevator I may miss deadline. I guess I need the exercise, so I can't fault the stadium too much for that.
Saturday's game was typical of what I had seen of Abilene High all year... They beat the hell out of another team. That coupled with harsh daytime light didn't make for the most wonder game of the year. But I was able to pull out a few decent frames regardless. The nice thing about day games is I don't have to keep watching the clock and run up to the press box the minute the game is over, I can hang out and get post game celebration, school song, etc. Probably my favorite photo from the game was of the team doing their postgame chant (below). Even though the game pretty much sucked, it was fun and the team moved on to next week which should be a better game.






Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Playoffs Week 2, Day 2, Game 2

So far, my playoff miles haven't been nearly much as last year, now granted we are only 2 weeks into it. But, a lot has to do with all three Abilene teams were playing their opponents in Midland, so after a Thursday night game only a mere 90 miles away, my Friday and Saturday games were all in the same place.
This game wasn't much different from last week's game. Wylie won pretty easily in a game that was never really close. The problem with this was pretty much everything I shot in the first half was all the really great action I was going to get. Now, I know coaches love these kind of games as do some fans. But, I'd prefer something a little closer. Actually they did still keep the starters in for a little bit in the third quarter since Wylie's quarterback had been out for the previous 2 weeks with a knee injury, so he could shake what little rust he had away.
The good part was, since they played vanilla in the second half they mostly ran the ball and killed the clock quickly which was nice and allowed me to shoot some post-game stuff before sending my pix back. I do have a superstition though, even though I'll shoot celebration photos and use them for slideshows and even on inside and photo pages, I won't use them as the main photo on the section front in a game the team is supposed to win. I think I kind of look at it as the Sports Illustrated curse. Not to mention I have always kind of found it to be stupid to give a separate trophy for every round of the playoffs.






Sunday, November 22, 2009

Playoff Week 1, Game 3, day 3

With so many of our area teams in the playoffs I spend a lot of time driving around the state. Last year I drove about 2,500 miles in the six weeks of the high school football playoffs. This year I had a game in town on Thursday, Friday I made a 300+ mile roundtrip to Arlington, then on Saturday I went to Midland for Wylie playing their playoff game against Lubbock Estacado. Yet another day of a 300+ mile round trip to cover the game. The good thing was the game wasn't until 7pm so I was able to sleep in after getting in at 4am.
The first round of the playoffs often will result in some pretty anti-climactic games. This was one of them. Despite the team playing without their starting quarterback who was out with a knee injury. Wylie just pounded Estacado. The first half made for some pretty nice photos. The second half the team was pretty much put on cruise control and coasted to an easy win. I guess it was a good thing and made the game end early which helped as far as getting my photos in on deadline.





Saturday, November 21, 2009

The House that Jerry Built...

One of the coolest things about the high school football playoffs in Texas is most games are played on neutral fields. When I first got here 10 years ago playoff games at Texas Stadium were the norm. It wasn't uncommon to have 4 games played on a Saturday during the playoffs. I never like Texas Stadium as a pro stadium... to be blunt, the place was a dump. It was 30+ years old and was really starting to show its age. However, as a high school stadium it was really cool and allowed a handful of kids who would never play football beyond high school the opportunity to say they played on the same field the Cowboys played on.
So, when Jerry Jones built his new $1.6 billion palace of a stadium and closed down Texas Stadium, there had been rumors flying around that the days of this great playoffs tradition was going to be gone since the rent that Jerry was charging was too much for the teams to afford. Well, I don't know the whole truth since there was so much written, but I'm guessing there was at least some truth to it, but it was good to see high school games at this amazing stadium.
There has been plenty written about how this is an incredible stadium. And, while I'd heard about how great plenty of places were only to be disappointed when I actually went there, Jerry World totally lived up to its hype. The video screen alone is worth going just to check it out... I'd like to have one for my house, the only problem there would be I think it's bigger than my house!





Thursday, November 19, 2009

Hot ON the presses...

So, normally when I'm shooting football I'm working until anywhere between 1 am and 4 am putting the slide shows together after the game. How late I'm there depends a lot on how good the game was and how well I shot it. And, while Thursday night are rare, I do have to shoot them on occasion when both Abilene High and Cooper are playing home games. This particular night AHS did just that. And, as usual in their pathetic district they blew out their opponent. So, the slide show was only about 30 pics, and I was home by 1am and in bed by 2am. Little did I know that I would only get a short nap. At about 5am my cell phone started ringing. I pretty much slept right through it, however, my wife who could sleep through a car running through the house (and especially the damn alarm going off most mornings, since I'm the one it wakes up and have to practically shove her out of bed) did hear my phone going off. So, I stumble out of bed thinking some asshole is drunk dialing the wrong number and I'm the unlucky person getting it. Well, that wasn't the case. It's a message from my boss saying there's been a fire at the paper and I needed to go in to get photos. I guess I was the only one who was close enough to answer my phone.
The one cool part about this is, normally when I go to shoot fires I'm kept back outside and unless flames are shooting out of the building I'm getting photos of firemen walking in and out of the building. Well, this time I got a little better access, since I worked there. I pretty much got to follow the fire inspector around everywhere. The bad part about it is when I got done at 7:30am I had enough time to go home eat breakfast, shower and head to an assignment I had set up the day before thinking I could go back home and sleep. Well, needless to say, with adding in the football game I had to shoot that night I ended up with a 19 hour day. Big fun!

Can't Hold on to Their Balls

So, I'm pretty far behind on my posting. I've been not only busy as hell, but have found a lot of other things holding my attention. Yeah, I've been neglecting my posting here, so I'm gonna post a bunch of stuff to catch up over the next couple of days. So, during the catch up time I'll probably write less and post pix more... I mean, outside of my mom I doubt anyone actually reads this crap anyway!
These are photos from Wylie High School playing Graham in Graham. Where the game was being played is pretty significant since in the last 8 years that they have played the home team has won the game. This was supposed to be the year they got off the skid. Wylie was ranked #4 in the state and Graham was just out of the top 10 after their loss to Brownwood. However, Wylie for this game forgot how to hold on to the ball, to the tune of eight turnovers. So, the streak continues.